Saturday, April 26, 2008

The age old discussion

With this blog I've done something a little different than I've seen on other blogs: combined the real life of Laura Ingalls Wilder with the shows based upon her famous children's books.

It seems fitting, therefore, that there be some type of discussion about whether you loved the books first or if you discovered the books because of Michael Landon's Little House on the Prairie.

And we must take the discussion one step further--because we know it will go there anyway--by asking how you felt about the show straying so far from Laura's books during the 10 Seasons (well, nine seasons and three movies) of LHOP. I know people who refused, and still refuse, to watch the show because it didn't remain true to the books.

My own experience with Laura's Little House books has a funny story...funny to me anyway. In Fifth Grade I had to choose a book to do a report on. I chose Laura's Little House on the Prairie. But for whatever reason, I just couldn't get into the book. I figure it had a lot to do with the fact that it wasn't as much like the show I had been watching for years (it was in Season 5) as I thought it would be.

Do you see where this is going yet?

Yes, I wrote my book report on what had been going on with the show for the past five seasons. I had Laura and her family living in Walnut Grove, Mary had wed Adam Kendall, and the Ingalls family had adopted an orphan named Albert. I really wish I had kept that report, but that C- staring me in the face bugged me.

I continued to watch LHOP until it ended in the early 80's. I'm not sure what made me finally pick up the Little House books again (sometime after I graduated from high school in '86), but I did. I was instantly hooked.

Now, my bookshelf is sagging with the numerous titles by and about Laura and her family.

I still love the show too. Maybe it's because I loved the show first and then loved and admired Laura's written work later, that the discrepancies between them never bothered me. Or it could be that since Laura's books are also partially fiction that I didn't mind the liberties taken by the show. I've always looked at the books and the shows based upon them as just different ways to honor Laura's legacy. If I wanted 100% factual information I would look for a documentary of Laura's life. But that's not what Little House on the Prairie was. Now, I'll admit the episodes that I enjoy most are the ones that I can relate back to the books, but there are also many episodes I adore that were written outside of the material found in the books.

I'm sure none of us is going to influence the other to think or feel differently, but I would sure love to hear your thoughts.

So, what came first for you: the books or the show? And how do you feel about the way the show brought Laura's books to life?


Anonymous said...

I was first introduced to the show. I was in the 7th grade and it was Sept 1979. For English class we were assigned to watch two new television series and reports about them. I watched Trapper John M.D. but I couldn't find another show that my parents would let me watch, due to the amount of swearing that these new shows had in them. I went to my teacher and told her that I was a Christian girl who did not appreciate the foul language on these shows and asked if I could do a report on an older show, more family oriented, that I had never watched before. She agreed and I found LHOP. It was in it's 5th season. I was instantly hooked.
Not long after I headed to the bookstore to find the books that the show was based upon. I bought the first 2 books and read them. I continued to buy 2 books at a time til I had them all.
For me, LHOP and the Little House books are 2 seperate things, 2 ways to tell the same story. I love them both, but seperately for different reasons. I love the way that the actors brought the characters to life. No one else will be Laura but Melissa Gilbert! I love the books because they tell of how it "used to be" and is a record of how life was in the 1800, from someone who lived and experienced all of the changes that happened.
I love the episodes that come straight from the books, like Country Girls and Town Party, Country Party and others. They are my favourites because the 2 become one so to speak. I didn't mind that ML didn't stick to the books except if it went against what the books said. For example, Mrs Wilder taught school. In the 1800's married women didn't teach school. It wasn't a big deal for me but I often wondered why ML put her in the classroom when there was no way that the real Laura could teach. Not a big deal though, I still loved the show.

Dorothy Thompson said...

You know what...I think I'm an oddball because I never read any of the books. I loved the show. Watched it religiously. And..Michael Landon had a cute butt. Am I allowed to say that?

Rebecca said...

I read the first book of The House in the Big Woods, received it for Christmas 1971 long before the show was on the air. I watched the show and enjoyed an still enjoy the repeats. I remember an interview where Michael Landon was asked why he didn't follow the story line step by step and he said if we didn't add our own touches to the show we would have nothing to film after the 3rd season. For instance, Mary the older sister never got married, never opened a blind school, she continued to live with the mother. I belive it was Charles that passed first. But the story line went in twists and turns for Hollywood's sake. If the real Laura only knew how much pleasure she is still continuing to bring to the generation of children since she authored her books, I think she would be delighted. Do you know that Michael Landon's son is following in dad's footsteps and producing a lot of the Janette Oke books into Hallmark movies. They are also along the same story line of pioneers and families. Loves Comes Softly and Love's Enduring Promise comes to mind, but there are more. Thankfully, there are still some nice movies to watch.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I must admit I discovered the TV show first. After watching the courtship of Laura (Melissa Gilbert) and Almanzo (Dean Butler)on Michael's LHOP I was intrigued to learn more about these two characters.

My crush on Dean made the story all the more interesting in the eyes of a young teenage girl. I couldn't get enough of reading about their courtship and marriage, thus was the reason I became hooked on the books back in the late 70's.


Anonymous said...

I was just 2 years old when the series started. I saw much of the early years in repeats as I grew older, but I watched it religiously from about 79 to 83 in first run. I was also an avid reader and fan of the Trixie Belden series. One day in 1980, while at the bookstore, I saw Little House in the Big Woods and my jaw dropped. My show and my characters were in a real book. I read the entire series and I loved them.

Yes they were different, but I love them both and they are both such utter treasures. One of the episodes that I have never forgotten is the one where Laura runs away after Baby Charles dies and how she begs God to take her instead -- it broke my heart and I've always wanted the family love that was shown between the Ingalls through the good and the bad.

Holly said...

I read most of the books as a child in the 60s and early 70s. I didn't watch many of the shows until the late 80s and I still haven't seen all of them.

I like to think of the books and the show as two separate stories. That way, I don't get irritated at the show for straying so far from the books!

I read all the little house books out loud to my eldest children and I've now done the same for my youngest. We love the little house books!